Early Careers Programme

The value of research institutions as the building blocks of knowledge-based, innovative economies is widely accepted. For some years, student enrolments and research demand have grown vastly in many countries, especially in the global south, but staff capacity has not kept apace.

Increasing demands on staff and a subsequent reduction in the time and resources to devote to strengthening research leadership skills has led to many young, talented researchers leaving for countries or sectors with more opportunities for their development.

As large numbers of the professoriate are drawing close to retirement age, there is international concern about the need to not only replenish academic ranks, but to encourage a more diverse staff profile with the skillset needed to support the next generation of researchers, lecturers and university leaders. Early career staff should also be a vital dimension of any university’s internationalisation strategy and key to strengthening their institutions’ research profile on the global stage.

The ACU is working on innovative projects that focus on building the capacity of early career researchers. Our aim is to develop these researchers' skills as well as to strengthen the systems in place to support their professional development.

CIRCLE Visiting Fellows at workshop in 2016

CIRCLE Visiting Fellows at workshop in 2016

Ongoing projects

  • The Climate Impacts Research Capacity and Leadership Enhancement (CIRCLE) project is supporting fellowships for early career African researchers in the field of climate change to conduct a one year research project. All fellows are hosted at an African institution from which they receive supervision and training support. CIRCLE also runs an institutional strengthening programme to build institutional capacity in early career researcher support at the participating home and host institutions.

  • The Structured Training for African Researchers (STARS) project has developed, and is currently piloting, an initiative to maximise the use of staff time through a blended online and in-person training approach. This has been put into practice through the collaborative development of a nine module online, professional skills course, backed-up by tutoring within their institution; and the development of an implementation tool to assist participating universities to embed the course and associated support into their own structures and systems.

  • The Nairobi Process, a series of consultations conducted in partnership with the British Academy aims to stimulate discussion around provision for researchers, with later reports focusing specifically on support for early career academics.

  • The Africa Desk serves as both a directory of expertise, and a map of the Africa-UK research landscape, principally in the social sciences and humanities.

Completed projects

  • The DocLinks project, completed in 2013, sought to strengthen networks between European and African doctoral and post-doctoral researchers.